By: Elizabeth Wotherspoon

Kindergarten can be a controversial and/or stress inducing topic for many. In Alberta, parents have the choice to either put their child in kindergarten or wait to start school until grade one. So, should you put your child in kindergarten or should you let your child be a kid for another year and wait for grade one? Waiting wouldn’t be an option if it was going to be a setback for your child in any way, right?

Let’s talk about exactly what your child can get from being part of a kindergarten class. The Kindergarten Program Statement (Alberta Education, 2008) provides learner expectations in seven learning areas. The expectations of these learning areas are not only accomplished in the Kindergarten program, but from the homes and communities of children as well. However, Kindergarten does provide some opportunities for children that simply cannot be taught at home. This is because a lot of what a child learns in kindergarten is taught by his or her peers.  The following, separated by the seven learning areas, is a brief overview of what your child can get out of a Kindergarten class that he or she may not get anywhere else.

Early Literacy

This focuses on children being actively engaged in learning language and forming their own understanding of how spoken and written language works. A kindergarten program provides opportunities to:

  • Experiment with language and to test it in verbal interactions with their peers and adults (other than their parents)
  • Participate in shared listening, reading, and viewing experiences
    • Sharing stories using rhyme, rhythms, symbols, pictures, and drama
    • Class and group language activities
    • Begin using language prediction skills
    • Ask questions and make comments
  • Represent and share ideas and information about topics of interest

Early Numeracy

Provides activities that foster a curiosity about mathematics. A kindergarten program provides the following opportunities that create interest in numeracy:

  • Comparing quantities, searching for patterns, sorting objects, ordering objects, creating designs, and building with blocks
    • Connects numbers to real-life experiences
    • Develops mathematical reasoning skills (a foundation for later success)
    • Develops problem-solving skills
  • Being involved in a variety of experiences and interactions within the environment helps develop spatial sense including, visualization, mental imagery, and spatial reasoning

Citizenship and Identity

This focuses on the development of a strong sense of identity, self-esteem, and belonging. Children are given the opportunity to explore who they are in relation to others – a difficult thing to teach from home. All the children from a Kindergarten class bring their own perspectives, cultures, and experiences to the classroom. Because everyone has a unique background, bringing all the children together provides opportunities to:

  • Become aware of who they are as unique individuals
  • Express themselves by sharing personal stories
  • Discover how they are connected to other people and their communities
  • Express interest, sensitivity, and responsibility in their interactions with others

Environment and Community Awareness

By providing opportunities for children to use their five senses to explore, investigate, and describe their environment and community children become more aware of their surroundings. Using simple tools in a safe and appropriate manner provide experiences that allow children to:

  • Recognize similarities and differences in living things, objects, and materials
  • Learn about cause and effect relationships
  • Make personal sense of the environment
  • Explore familiar places and things in the environment and community
  • Recognize seasonal changes in their environment and community
  • Recognize familiar animals in their surroundings

Personal and Social Responsibility

In order for children to be able to learn, they need to be able to regulate their bodies. An unregulated child will spend all of his or her energy focusing on what is happening in his or her body and cannot attend to what is being taught. This area focuses on the personal and social management skills necessary for effective learning. Each child develops these skills at their own rate and is dependent on personal experiences; however, kindergarten provides children opportunities to:

  • See themselves as capable learners by participating in learning tasks, trying new things, and taking risks
  • Follow rules and learn the routines in a school environment
  • Become more independent
  • Develop friendship skills
  • Demonstrate caring and contributing to others
  • Express their feelings in socially acceptable ways
  • Take turns, contribute to partner and group activities, work cooperatively, and give and receive help

Physical Skill and Well-Being

By participating in physical activities, by becoming aware of healthy food choices, and by learning safety rules, children develop positive attitudes towards an active, healthy lifestyle. Kindergarten provides practice opportunities for the behaviours that promote wellness. Children in kindergarten begin to develop a personal responsibility for health, learn about personal safety, and ways to prevent/reduce risks. Through play, the following skills are targeted:

  • Coordinated movement, balance, and stability
  • Finger and hand precision
  • Hand-eye coordination

Creative Expression

Kindergarten gives children an environment where they can practice fostering respect and collaboration with others through sharing ideas and listening to others’ diverse views and opinions. Being involved in listening to others’ perspectives allows children to learn that people see and learn things in different ways than they do. The following are activities that help to develop these skills:

  • Viewing and responding to natural forms, everyday objects, and artwork
  • Individual and group musical activities, songs, and games
  • Listen to (and begin to appreciate) a variety of musical instruments and different kinds of music
  • Dramatic play and movement
    • Helps with growth in self-awareness and self-confidence

Kindergarten helps to form the base knowledge so your child is ready for English language arts, math, social studies, science, physical education, health, and fine arts throughout elementary school. Children learn these skills at home, in the community, and in the kindergarten classroom. It is unlikely your child would be far behind without the experience of Kindergarten; however, certain skills such as knowing the routine and expectations of a school environment may be something a child who did not attend Kindergarten will have to learn.